Windows Loop and Double Arch Trails

Windows Loop and Double Arch Trails

Arches National Park

Type: Day hike
Distance: 1.8 mi (2.9 km) round trip
Cumulative Elevation Gain/Loss: +381 feet (116 m), -431 feet (131 m)
Date Visited: Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Windows Loop and Double Arch Trails Map (KTNP)

It was going to be a busy day in Arches National Park. We decided to hike two trails, including Delicate Arch. But we started with the less strenuous Windows Section. The area boasts numerous arches, and a fairly short trail leads to North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch. Double Arch is also nearby – it’s unique in that it has two arches that share a central pillar. We decided to explore them all.

The trails to the Windows and Double Arch are fairly easy. For the Windows, we did a 1.2 mile loop trail, including a primitive trail that goes around the “back.” Even though it’s labeled as more difficult, it’s still relatively easy terrain. The trail to Double Arch is only 0.25 miles one-way, and you can see the arch from the parking lot. If you take the route we did, including the Windows, primitive trail, and Double Arch, it’s about 1.8 miles.

From Moab, our drive was about 40 minutes. After passing Balanced Rock on the main park road, we turned right onto a side road to get to the Windows area, then headed to the nearby parking lot. The Windows Loop Trail is to the east, and Double Arch is to the west.

Turret Arch

We chose to start with Windows Loop Trail, and headed toward Turret Arch, which is about a ten minute walk. It’s made up of one large arch and one smaller arch. Visitors can scramble through Turret Arch, and it’s always nice to get a photo from both angles. The arch is aptly named, because it looks like a castle.

The level, gravel trails are windy and interspersed, so we had to backtrack in order to see everything. And there are many features to see in the Windows area. As always, we made sure to avoid stepping on cryptobiotic soil.

Arches: Windows From Main Road
A long distance vista of the Windows from a viewpoint off the main road
Arches: Windows Trailhead
The Windows Trailhead
Arches: Intersection for Turret Arch and the Windows
Intersection for Turret Arch and the Windows
Arches: Turret Arch
Turret Arch, named for the tall rock on the left
Arches: Turret Arch From the Other Side
The view after we walked through Turret Arch

North and South Windows

Our next stop was the North Window, which was a short walk from Turret Arch. On the way, we could see both the North and South Windows. Both “windows” are part of the same sandstone fin. Between the arches is a rock formation known as Nose Bridge. When viewed together, the two windows and bridge are known as “The Spectacles,” as they look like a pair of glasses. We walked underneath the North Window, but couldn’t go any farther as there’s a cliff on the other side. Looking through the arch toward the northeast, we saw the canyons of Salt Wash and beyond.

The nearby South Window was next. This one is high up on a cliffside, so we enjoyed it from below. Compared with the other formations, there were fewer people here. It was breezy , so we didn’t stand around for too long.

Arches: Spectacles at the Windows
Together, the North and South Windows, along with Nose Bridge, make a formation called The Spectacles
Arches: North Window
The trail leading to North Window
Arches: View Through North Window
The view through North Window
Arches: South Window
South Window

Primitive Trail

As we took a break by the South Window, another couple asked if we knew where the primitive trail, which loops back to the parking lot, begins. We weren’t sure, but we began looking since we planned to take it too. Turns out it starts to the right of the South Window. It’s a bit hidden, but is marked by a cairn near the base of the fin.

So, we headed down the primitive trail. While it isn’t the most exciting hike, there are some nice views along the way. One of my favorite parts was seeing both windows simultaneously, and from a different angle. Even though it’s called a “primitive trail,” it’s not hard (this was nothing like our experience at Devils Garden, for example). There’s minimal scrambling, but otherwise it’s a short, easy trail with plenty of wayfinding cairns. And we had more solitude on this section of the hike.

Arches: Start of Primitive Trail
The start of primitive trail
Arches: Both Windows from Primitive Trail
Both Windows from the primitive trail. From this perspective, the formation is also known as The Spectacles.
Arches: Along Primitive Trail at Windows
Along the primitive trail
Arches: View Looking North From Primitive Trail in Windows Area
View looking north-ish from the primitive trail

Double Arch

The primitive trail led us back to the parking lot, where we turned right toward Double Arch Trailhead. From there, it took us about ten minutes to get to Double Arch – it’s easy, level, and crowded. To the left is a sandstone formation called Parade of Elephants, and we could see the resemblance. A couple arches are also hidden in the rocks.

Double Arch’s height and span are impressive – it’s the tallest in the park, and the third widest. It was fascinating to learn that the arch started out as a pothole in the sandstone, and formed as water eroded the rock over time. Relaxing under this formation was a special experience. Since there are two arches, it’s almost like being a kid hiding in a fort. We sat on some rocks underneath it, ate a snack, and then climbed further up on some rock outcrops behind it. It was very crowded though, considering its proximity to the parking lot. Low effort, big payoff.

We enjoyed both of these hikes, and Double Arch was my favorite arch we’d seen so far. These trails might be a good bet if you are looking for quick, easy walks and multiple rock formations. The Windows Loop primitive trail even provides some solitude, though there are more interesting trails and features elsewhere in the park. Our next stop: Delicate Arch.

Arches: Walking Along To Double Arch Along Road
Walking from the primitive trail toward Double Arch Trail
Arches: Parade of Elephants in Windows Area
A rock formation known as the Parade of Elephants, near Double Arch
Arches: Double Arch Trailhead
Double Arch Trailhead
Arches: Double Arch
One of my favorite arches in the park, Double Arch
Arches: Rock Outcropping Behind Double Arch
Visitors enjoying the rock outcropping behind Double Arch
Arches: Looking Out From Behind Double Arch
View of the Windows area from behind Double Arch

Windows Loop and Double Arch Trails

Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Day hike
Total Distance:
1.8 mi (2.9 km)
Cumulative Elevation Gain/Loss:
+381 feet (116 m), -431 feet (131 m)
Time: 2 hours, including breaks
Trail Markings: Wayfinding Cairns (on primitive trail)
Difficulty: Easy
Crowds: Heavy near Turret and Double Arches, and the Windows. Few on the primitive trail.
Water: None
Highlights: Geological Features, Views
Directions to Windows Parking: Google Maps Directions
Notes: There are multiple ways to see the features mentioned above, so feel free to explore

Trail Directions

  • 0.0 mi – From the parking lot, head south to the Windows Trailhead. Look for the trailhead sign.
  • 0.1 mi – At the intersection, turn right toward Turret Arch.
  • 0.2 mi – The trail passes Turret Arch, and you can stop to scramble and explore it.
  • 0.3 mi – At the intersection between the windows, continue straight toward the North Window.
  • 0.4 mi – Arrive at North Window. Check it out, then turn around and go back the same way.
  • 0.5 mi – Back at the intersection between the two Windows. Turn left toward South Window and arrive there shortly. At the base of the South Window, follow the trail to the right toward the primitive trail. Cairns will help guide you.
  • 1.2 mi – Primitive trail ends at the parking lot. Turn right and follow the road to Double Arch Trailhead.
  • 1.3 mi – At the Double Arch Trailhead. You can see the arch from the trailhead.
  • 1.5 mi – Arrive at Double Arch. Enjoy it, then head back the same way.
  • 1.8 mi – Back at the parking lot.




Elevation Graph

Interactive Map

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